Puerto Rico’s path towards statehood is stronger than ever. In fact, we can state that the almost 3.6 million American citizens in this United States Territory are living their final days of this, immoral colonial status. That’s a fact, not an opinion.
The statehood movement, both on the Island, as well as in the States, has grown exponentially during the past 30 years. The evidence is overwhelming. The facts are there for everyone to observe.
In Puerto Rico, the New Progressive Party (NPP), which seeks statehood, have grown from a purely second political option to a commanding position only rivaled by the Democratic Party dominance over U.S. politics in the 1940s.
Since its inception in the Island’s political landscape back in 1967, the NPP has consistently increased its number of affiliated voters, a distinction no other party can claim. More to the point. In the last four elections the NPP has been the only party to topple the 48 percent mark, and in 2008, the party got almost 54 percent of the vote, something unprecedented in a multi-party system.
Even in the last electoral process, when the NPP’s candidate for governor loss by less than .02 percent, the party took more votes than its rival (48.4 to 48.2 percent).
In 2012 the statehood movement achieved its greatest victory so far when it won, hands down and without any doubt, a political status referendum. This is a sharp contrast to the marked decline in support for the current territorial status.
According to the official results of Puerto Rico’s State Electoral Commission, 54 percent (970,910 out of 1,798,987) of eligible electors voted ‘No’ to remain in the current political status. Furthermore, 61 percent of the people (834,191) voted in favor of our Island joining the Union as the 51st state. As of the others options in the ballots, Free Association gathered 33 percent of the vote (454,768), while Independence generated 5.4 percent (74,895).
That’s a resounding fact.
As the statehood forces increase on the Island, so does in the States. For the first time in history an admission bill, in accordance with the will of the people of Puerto Rico, was filed in the U.S. Senate.
Our Resident Commissioner, the Island’s sole member of Congress (without a floor vote), Pedro Pierluisi, has presented two admission bills in the House of Representatives.
In the last two years, powerful U.S. Senators have called for grating statehood to the Island, including Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), among others.
|La Fortaleza(Governor’s Residence)|
“Puerto Rico has spent nearly 116 years as an American territory. That’s long enough,” Heinrich said. That’s a sentiment we have felt from most members of Congress every time we visit Washington DC.
Another factor in our growth has been the large number of Puerto Rican living in the States. For example, in Florida, the statehood forces need to be reckon with. Orange County alone is home to more than 150,000 Puerto Ricans. Overall, Puerto Ricans now number nearly one million statewide and represent 28 percent of Hispanic registered voters — closing in on a Cuban population of 1.3 million.
Even media outlets, not only the U.S., but in Europe as well, have consistently reported about the growing influence of statehood for the Island. It’s no more a matter of ‘what if’, it’s just ‘when it will be’.
Forget the silly arguments regarding the language and culture. Puerto Rico, as in the case of every state (Texas, Hawaii, Alaska, Nebraska, and so for) will maintain its own identity. The Congress and the White House, not only understand this, but supported because, after all, America is a multicultural Nation since its very beginning.
To those who for decades have supporter the admission of Puerto Rico into our great Nation, as an equal partner, your passions are paying off immensely. The statehood movement is more robust and stronger than ever.
Jose Aponte Hernandez
Hernandez was Speaker of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico from 2005 to 2009.